Adding to My Bookshelf

I received an email last week that still has me super stoked. I have been a big fan of Melissa Joulwan since stumbling upon her blog when I first heard of Paleo. Her mayo recipe rocked my universe and the Sunshine Sauce still ranks as one of the best things I ever took to a lunch with friends.

I own both her Well Fed and Well Fed 2 cookbooks and this email not only shared a recipe for Fried Chicken Meatballs, but also dropped the knowledge that the recipe is one of 128 in her new cookbook coming soon. Well Fed Weeknights features Paleo meals in 45-minutes or less. THAT is super exciting because everyone in this house loves to eat and hates to wait. And, frankly, I need more Paleo options at my fingertips and I am looking for something to reignite my kitchen interest.

I love that the email contained 70 pages of the new cookbook and 16 recipes. Who doesn’t love a sneak peek?! If you are more of a live action person, there is a sneak peek video as well. Can’t wait to have this in my hot little hands!

2015–Stick with the Old & Add a Little New

The beginning of a new year always seems to spark a bit of enthusiasm. Even the most cynical among us, if honest, have a twinge of “what if” when the clock strikes midnight in a new year. January is also my birthday month, so there is that. Ever since I turned 40, I promised myself I would make 40 fit and fabulous. Now that I’m a bit past 40, I think it’s finally time to see if the old girl has any tricks left up her sleeve.

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Whole 30 — Days 13 thru 16

Tonight I decided to be a little adventurous. All it took was seeing a 3-pack of portobello mushrooms on market’s weekly special list to start me thinking. I knew tonight was likely “pizza night” for the rest of the clan, and I’d thought about my own meatza or something. But, I also had pineapple and bacon in the fridge which had me thinking about more creative pizza toppings.

finishedproductI decided to make a bacon/pineapple topped roasted portobello with a balsamic reduction drizzled over the top. I knew immediately that this will be in our summer grilling line up because it is soooo delicious & I imagine what grilled pineapple would be like on this little masterpiece.

I started with no earthly idea how to properly roast a portobello. I used the Nom Nom Paleo instructions as a base formula. I had made bacon in the oven as the first step. I decided that, in this case, my “favorite fat” would be the rendered bacon fat. There was enough to brush over the entirety of the three mushrooms. I sprinkled the caps with salt and then put them in the 400 degree oven, rounded part up, for 10 minutes. [I had the rounded part up as I planned to fill the mushrooms with goodies for the second half of their roasting.] In the meantime, I started a small amount of balsamic vinegar in a stainless saucepan over medium heat–looking for that syrupy goodness to emerge!

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Whole 30 — Days 7 thru 12

The past few days have been full of all kinds of “excitement” that has prevented properly documenting my Whole 30 progress.

To make a long story short, the horribly cold temperatures caused a malfunction in one of our myoffice1sprinkler system pipes. Fortunately, when that happens, it alerts the nearby fire departments who responded & were able to shut off the water before it became too unholy of a mess. At it is, it’s quite an involved clean-up process.

My office seems to be ground zero for the various crews’ efforts to fix the situation. All those boxes contain books for four sections of the course I teach–they were spared, even though they were stacked behind my office door. Those silver vent dohicks are just 2 of the myriad of cords that are all over the place–I’ve only tripped once. It is an amazing process to watch–but it also means I’m in a different office until at least the end of this week–and then I’ll need a day to put my office back together so I can find everything.

I will admit to being a little discombobulated by the changes. I actually delivered a presentation to prospective students on Friday and my mind went COMPLETELY blank when I was asked a routine question. I haven’t had a blank like that since 7th grade cheerleading try-outs. Sheesh.

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Whole 30 Days 3-6 : Still Standing

Never fear! I’m still here…remarkably. If you thought I’d given up, thrown in the towel and consoled myself with a block of sharp cheddar cheese & a bottle of red wine, you’d be mistaken. If you thought I’d spent nearly every idle second fantasizing about those two no-no items, you’d be absolutely right!

Although I’ve had a couple days where my food intake has been less than stellar, I’ve not fallen off the Whole 30 compliant list. Mostly, I’m in violation because I don’t eat when I should and I haven’t eaten enough some days.

Let’s roll back the clock, shall we? This way, we’re all caught up and you might see something new you want to try.

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Whole 30 Day 2 — Forgot How Much This Sucks

The good thing about doing another Whole 30 is you remember how awesome you’ll feel soon. The bad thing is, you figure out faster the second time around how much it really sucks at the start. It’s kind of like having your second baby–the minute those contractions start, you remember EXACTLY how much it’s going to hurt before it’s all over and they let you eat real food and take a nap. [This coming from a mother of two who went through two very different, but totally unmedicated, labors & deliveries].

A lovely bright spot today was a visit from UPS with an Amazon box that contained an early birthday gift from my dearest of friends [and fellow Whole 30-goer], Rachelle. I can’t wait to try out this panScreen shot 2014-01-03 at 9.42.27 PM!

So, today, it was Slugville. No motivation to do much. As my daughter says, “Your’e taking a ride on the struggle bus.” I had to drag myself from my warm bed early [it is, literally, colder than freezing here] to take my oldest to work on her science fair project. “An hour or so” turned into three and by the time we arrived home, I was very hungry. I warmed some ghee in my cast iron skillet & zested a lemon & orange into the melting goodness. Then, I put sweet potato rounds into the melted ghee, turning each disk over after the one side was covered in fat. I then squeezed half a lemon over the disks, covered the cast iron skillet with aluminum foil & put it in a 325 degree oven for around 40 minutes. When the oven beeped, I pulled the foil off & let them go another five minutes.

In the meantime, I warmed up the remaining Silken Zucchini Ginger Soup I made last night. The soup was miraculous. My daughter, of course, loved it. I loved it. The real kicker? My very picky “I don’t eat green things unless they are jelly beans” husband actually tried it. And, after trying it, he requested his own cup of soup. I was sad when it was gone, so I, of course, reloaded the zucchini supply when I stopped at the market today.

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Whole 30 Day 1–Made It!

This Whole 30’s Day One started off slowly. And, by slowly, I mean I didn’t leave my bed until after noon. I had an awful sinus headache yesterday which had me in bed sleeping most of the afternoon/early evening. That really doesn’t help a person fall asleep at a decent time at night. Add to that a snowstorm that socked us in the teeth, and I was not all that motivated to rise and shine.

Just because the day started slowly doesn’t mean it stayed that way. Nope. Once I shoveled myself from the driveway, I went to the bank and the market. My oldest is doing a science fair project that involves animal bones, so roast chicken made it onto the dinner menu.

chickenbefore I used a recipe I found on Pinterest, but took out the butter, added ghee and substituted sweet potatoes for white potatoes. I used Herbs de Provence rather than the herbs listed in the recipe–mostly for convenience as I already had those herbs handy.

I also drizzled some olive oil onto the bottom of the pan as I didn’t want the chicken to stick as I didn’t really butter up the bottom of the bird like I did the top.

I also took the lead of the photos on the recipe’s blog and use a dutch oven rather than my usual roasting pan to make this recipe. I’m really glad I did. It seems like the chicken drippings, ghee & lemon zest came together to create a glaze for the veggies. It was chickenafterextremely tasty.

The bird was absolutely moist and very flavorful. It could have been partially because I had only had a red pepper, some celery and black coffee by the time dinner rolled around at 5:00, but I don’t think so. My husband even commented on how juicy and tasty the chicken was. I’m a fan of sweet potatoes, but haven’t been eating them lately. So, that was a nice touch for the meal in my book.

bonebrothBecause my daughter needed chicken bones and I had a chicken carcass, I decided to try our new electric pressure cooker and make some bone broth. I didn’t have leeks, so I used celery. I loosely followed the pressure cooker broth recipe from my Nom Nom Paleo cookbook. It took a little over a half hour & I had a little over two big Mason jars of broth.

I was excited about that because I also wanted to try a soup recipe I’d pinned from The Clothes that Make the Girl blog. I had looked at stock and broth at my local market, but couldn’t find one that didn’t involve sugar or some other Whole 30 no-no. But, now? I was more than equipped to put together the soup I’d bought ingredients for earlier today–granted this broth might be a little less hearty because I only used chicken bones rather than an actual chicken to make it, but I’ll deal.

zucchinibeforeThe Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup sounds divine.

It didn’t take much at all to have it going on the stove. It smelled so good. I didn’t think that my oldest was going to leave the kitchen–I had to tell her the soup needed to simmer for at least 45 minutes before we put it in the Vitamix.

I suppose I can’t blame her. She’s my little veggie girl. I distinctly remember being in the produce department with her little baby self in the seat of the cart. I turned to put some things into a produce bag after putting some zucchini in the cart. I turned to put the new bag in the cart only to find her gnawing on the zucchini through the bag–good grief. She did love her zucchini from day one, that’s for certain. We’ll see how we both feel about the soup once it’s finished!

Adding to the Arsenal

When completing my first successful Whole 30 this summer, I ended the 30 days with a list of things I wished I’d have had in the house. Luckily for this girl, Christmas came before the next Whole 30 attempt so that I could add some items to my arsenal–including things I only learned about in the new cookbooks I received as gifts.

peelerpicFirst and foremost, I made sure that I purchased a julienne peeler. I also purchased a serrated peeler from a Pampered Chef party to try out different types of peelers in my cooking adventures.

The julienne peeler was a must add because of my love for noodles and my complete inability to not fantasize about them around Day 14 of the Whole 30. I made a tasty butternut squash lasagna from Stupid Easy Paleo last go ’round and was utterly amazed at the way the ingredients mimicked the sensation & taste of cheese being present. I’m extremely hopeful that Melissa Joulwan’s Comfort Noodles will fall into this palate-fooling category.

[Incidentally, I love all the recipes I’ve tried from Stupid Easy Paleo & she’s starting a Whole 30 in January as well. She offers a free guide for the Whole 30 via her website. Plus, Melissa Joulwan’s Comfort Noodles were included in a post showcasing her Top 15 Recipes in 2013 and she’s provided a HUGE service to the still-figuring-this-out crowd with her post discussing her view on meal plans & how to properly prepare to EAT. Her cookbooks, Well Fed & Well Fed 2, are must-have books, imho. And, if you haven’t made her mayo, well, what ARE you waiting on anyway?!]

The other thing I really needed was a set good knives. Good grief, but it’s annoying to try and prep real food with chintzy knives that can barely slice a tomato, let alone a dense squash. My mom came through with a 3-piece set of knives from J.A. Henckels. I researched it a little & made sure that the set I picked was made in Germany rather than somewhere else. I’ve lived long enough with questionable cutting equipment. Let the games begin!

Some other new things in the kitchen since summer should make things interesting: a set of cast iron cookware, a digital pressure cooker, little glass containers to hold spice mixes I’ll be making, and new ingredients like fish sauce and dried porcini mushrooms. Should be interesting!

And, because my husband gave me two awesome thermal mugs that keep hot things really hot like a thermos, but allow for drinking easily & without drips, I’m seriously reconsidering adding hot soup to my breakfast menu. If I think of soup less as soup and more like a hot smoothie [which makes sense in cold weather], I might just be able to mix up breakfast even more AND have it at my desk while I work through the morning. Thanks to the pressure cooker and the slow cooker, the soup supply may increase exponentially in the coming month.

Have you given any thought to what supplies you want to have on hand as you embark on the first week? What about food? What do you think you’d like to eat the first week?

The Winds of Change

Whole30LaunchI know that making changes at the start of a new year is so cliche. But, I also know it is the ONE time of the year where I can be counted upon to be motivated, hopeful and concerned about the coming year. My birthday falls in January and as it approaches, I’m reminded of the things I told myself I’d be doing by 2014. I’ve done many of them, but most of my health-related goals have been less than consistently met and, for that, I’m disappointed in myself. I’m not a pull the bandage off slowly kind of girl. I can’t ease into things–it’s all or nothing.
That means, when the calendar for 2013 falls into the trash bin, I’ll be kicking it up a serious notch.

A Whole 30 [at least 30] is on tap for me. Incidentally, over a half dozen of my closest long-distance friends are also jumping on the Whole 30 train. Others who may not be going Whole 30 are cutting out beloved, but not-friendly to them, things. I’m also going to be doing a three-day/week Boot Camp. [insert joke here]. I know my husband will boot me from my warm, snugly bed because 1) he enjoys doing that; 2) he paid for the Boot Camp Groupon; and 3) Boot Camp takes him back to his own early military experiences and he will love treating me like a new recruit. I’m hopeful the early start of the boot camp will help me hit the hay at a respectable hour, which is required by Whole 30 parameters. My objective is for the month of January to be the opening salvo of some major improvements in my health during 2014. My sincere desire is to lower the level of inflammation seen in my blood test numbers and increase my general level of health.
My Christmas gifts will go a long way to helping me accomplish my plan. I dusted off my copy of It Starts with Food [props to my husband for finding it in the spot where I’ve looked no less than six cookbookstimes] and added Nom Nom Paleo and Well Fed 2 to my personal library. I’m going to be ordering Well Fed ASAP, so I can be planning out meals, shopping lists, etc. until this is like second nature.

I also know that by having put it out there that I’m doing a Whole 30 again and having others say, “Count me in too!” that I can’t just fall off the wagon on Day 3 by sticking my face in a bag of Cheetos. I will need to be seriously prepped, well stocked and committed to making it to the finish line again. It would be stellar that if by the time this Whole 30 is over, I feel like I did at the last Whole 30 finish line. I felt like I could definitely go for another 30 days. I should have ridden that momentum and continued. This time, I’d like to push forward to see where I can take myself.

cookwareMy husband checked out my Amazon wish list and made sure his gift giving included some awesomeness. I’m super stoked to be adding some authentic cast iron loveliness to my cookware collection.

That sad sack set of allegedly hard-anodized cookware I reviewed previously won’t darken my cooktop again. Eww. No more gray eggs that I have to throw into the garbage.

I also purchased my husband a kitchen gadget that I think will come in handy for my endeavor. A digital pressure cooker that doubles as a slow cooker made its way into our small appliance menagerie. I had to open a whole new Pinterest board to make sure when I find recipes and information, I can house them somewhere accessible. I’m sure I’ll figure out how to translate instructions for traditionally pressure-cooked foods into using the digital one. Fingers crossed!

From the looks of it on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere, many Whole 30 efforts will be launched on January 2nd. If you are throwing your hat in the Whole 30 ring, jump in comments so we know you are here & we can follow your progress. We can share tips, ideas and any frustrations that pop. For now, it’s all about prepping. Meal plans, shopping lists & scheduling commences NOW!

Whole 30 — Day 30 Recap

I did it!

Whole 30 in the books.  I wish I’d measured myself. I can definitely see differences. Plus, I’m wearing clothes I haven’t in quite awhile. I lost 13 pounds which amazes me, especially because I didn’t exercise. Kicking myself on that one too because just imagine where I might be if I had!

But, I’ll take what I earned and just keep going.

If you thought I went out and ate some kind of Dairy Queen concoction, a fully loaded pizza or some other hot mess of a food stuff to celebrate, you would be wrong.

CauliflowerPoppersMy daughter and I made Cauliflower Poppers from a recipe on the Delighted Momma’s blog. We loved them and polished off the bowl I’d made in no time! Note to self: You can totally make the entire head of cauliflower and go to town. 🙂

I also had the chance this morning to put together a yummy batch of Snickerdoodle cookies using the recipe I found at Love In the Oven.

We have a huge weekend this weekend–my youngest is playing in a gigantic soccer tournament and my oldest’s school is holding it’s weekend long festival fundraiser. Both involve volunteer shifts for parents plus lots of running between venues.

One thing I hadn’t planned on? Thunderstorms! Really threw off our game schedule today, but we hope tomorrow will be better.

Whatever happens, I’m feeling better and lighter and all that good stuff and I have a ton more energy than I would have had a month ago.

If your’e on the fence about the Whole 30, go for it! Get off that fence and give it a go!